In his widely celebrated Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis touched on a wide range of important subjects in Catholic teaching – but notably had nothing at all to say about gay marriage, or on the wider subjects of sexual ethics or same – sex relationships in general. The only explanation for this remarkable omission on so topical a subject, is a clue in the opening section, where he notes that he has not attempted to discuss everything of importance, because some things need further study. Later, he suggested that the subject of homosexuality should be referred to the Pontifical Academy for Science, or that for Social Science. Throughout his papacy, he has consistently promoted openness and free discussion, and his hand – picked choice as leader of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, has stated unequivocally that the Church needs full and frank discussion, without fear, and without taboos, of the controversial issues facing the Church – including gay marriage, abortion, communion after divorce, remarriage, and more. The pope has also urged far greater decentralization of the church, proposing that as far as possible, disputes within the Church should be settled at local level, by national bishops, and not in Rome.
Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has clearly not got the message.
Instead, he continues in the same style as his predecessor at the CDF, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, in clamping down hard on any perceived deviation from his interpretation of the rules. In the latest example of many, he has interfered directly in the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, instructing Archbishop Cushley to refuse permission for the respected Catholic theologian Tine Beattie to speak on church property.
From a report in the Tablet:
In his letter, seen by The Tablet, the archbishop wrote: “Professor Beattie is known to have frequently called into question the Church’s teaching. I would therefore ask you to cancel this event, as it may not proceed or be publicised on any Church property in this archdiocese.”The archbishop also uses the letter – dated 11 July but only released this week – to rebuke the association for organising a talk by theologian Joe Fitzpatrick, who has written a book critiquing original sin and seeking to make Genesis compatible with evolution
What is particularly disturbing here, is that this claim that she has “frequently called into question the Church’s teaching” is entirely unsubstantiated. Professor Beattie herself emphatically denies the charge. In previous instances where she was similarly prevented from speaking, also at the behest of the CDF (under the previous pope), the reason appeared to have been the open letter that she signed a few years ago on the subject of gay marriage. That letter however, was not arguing specifically in favour of gay marriage, but simply for the right of Catholics to disagree in conscience on the matter. That primacy of conscience is deeply embedded in Catholic teaching, and should not be seen as controversial.
Professor Beattie, a director of The Tablet, wrote to Archbishop Cushley expressing her concern about his decision in a letter dated 2 September – she has yet to receive a reply. “You say that I am ‘known to have frequently called into question the Church’s teaching’. Known by whom, in what context and with reference to which of my published works?” she wrote. “Never in my published writings or talks have questioned any of the doctrinal mysteries of the Catholic faith. On the contrary, I have consistently argued in defence of even the most frequently challenged doctrines of the Church.” On gay unions, Professor Beattie said that she signed the letter at a time when Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop Cushley’s predecessor, was one of the “most vociferous opponents of same-sex marriage” and that she believes that Catholics could enter a “more reasoned and nuanced public dialogue” about the matter than the hierarchy allowed.
- Francis’ Inclusive Apostolic Exhortation: “Rejoice in the Gospel”
- Francis’ Silence on Sex: Requires “More Reflection and Study”?
- Senior Bishop: We Need Frank Discussion – Without Taboos
- Francis’ “Writing on the Wall” for Catholic Sexual Dogma